HC Deb 21 July 1976 vol 915 cc1769-71
2 Mr. Buchanan

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what was the size of the average class in Scottish secondary schools in session 1974–75; what was the average class size in secondary schools in Scotland and in the Strathclyde Region, respectively, in session 1975–76; and what he expects it to be at the beginning of the new school year in August 1976.

The Minister of State, Scottish Office (Mr. Gregor MacKenzie)

The average size of classes in education authority secondary schools in Scotland in September 1974 was 20. The corresponding figure for Scotland in September 1975 was 19.6 and for Strathclyde 20.7. The average class size in August 1976 cannot be estimated at this stage.

Mr. Buchanan

Is the Minister aware that we are bound to be disappointed that class sizes are not falling when we are spending many thousands of pounds trying to make people literate and numerate because of their disadvantages during this terrible shortage of teachers? As we now have an opportunity to correct that imbalance, will he do his utmost to see that the teachers now leaving the training colleges are employed in schools?

Mr. MacKenzie

If the class sizes that I have just announced had existed when my hon. Friend and I were members of Glasgow City Council some years ago, we should have been very pleased. My hon. Friend has not got it quite right because we now have the best-ever teacher-pupil ratio.

Mrs. Bain

Given the high level of educational deprivation in Strathclyde Region, particularly as it was outlined in the first annual report by the regional council, does the Minister not agree that this is an opportunity for us to use the unemployed teachers to compensate in the West of Scotland for those years of educational deprivation? Will he therefore give a guarantee that the rate support grant will be increased to enable local authorities to increase the numbers of teachers?

Mr. MacKenzie

The hon. Lady is over-egging this pudding. I know the situation of teachers in Glasgow. As I said, we now have the best-ever teacher-pupil ratio.

Mr. Robin F. Cook

Has the Minister received a copy of the report by the Scottish Association of Head Teachers, which shows that unless the Red Book standards are increased by 6 per cent. staffing in schools will fall below the optimum level, mainly at the expense of the least academic pupils? Surely that shows that there is still a place in our schools for the qualified teachers who have not yet been taken into posts.

Mr. MacKenzie

I know that my right hon. Friend has not had an opportunity to study that document, but I do not think that we can accept all the comments made by that association.

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